Psychotherapy  & Naturopathic Services in Etobicoke

Stories We Tell Ourselves: Trauma Experiences

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Part 2 – Trauma Experiences

Especially for those of us who have experienced trauma(s), stories have a strong hold on us (if you haven’t had a chance to read “The Stories We Tell Ourselves: Part 1 – Self-Talk”, click here to read that first before continuing with this article).

Trauma is a word that is often misused and misunderstood. A trauma can be defined as a defined as “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience” or “physical injury”. Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that damage your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm.

One shared experience can impact two different people in very different ways. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized.

Having a traumatic experience can make it feel like our world is flipped upside down and turned inside out. When we experience trauma, our mind flips to survival mode, looking to how it knows best to protect us and to make sense of everything that has happened. Our survival method comes from our first experience of a perceived threat or danger. Often, this may include a sense of isolation and putting a wall up from anyone or anything that we perceive could cause harm. At times, it can be quite common to dissociate – a coping mechanism we use to detach from a very distressing emotional experience, and from any interactions or situations that elicit reminders of this experience. Forms of this may include depersonalization, psychological numbing, disengagement, or amnesia.


Here are some common things you might experience and the stories you may tell yourself after a traumatic experience:

  • Everything is fine. Nothing happened. I’m okay. I don’t recall any of that anyways.
  • There is nowhere safe and no one safe to be around. I’m all alone in this. I can’t trust anything or anyone.
  • That was my fault. I put myself in that situation. I should have done something else.
  • What was that? That was so confusing. What happens now?


There are many ways our mind may try to make sense of trauma. It can try to erase it from our memories, make us believe things about ourselves or others, and/or make us feel confused and shocked. All of these responses make sense, because our mind is really trying to protect us after a trauma. It’s okay to let our minds tell us these stories.


For some, we might have had these trauma experiences and stories replaying in our head for a long time. For others, we might want to be rid of these stories and move on because these stories are distressing, impacting our life negatively, or no longer helpful. For others, anger is the first sign that we want to move on from these stories.


Here are some helpful ways temporarily cope with these negative or uncertain thought patterns:


  • Be kind to yourself. These stories have existed to protect you and to see them from another perspective can bring a lot of pain and anger. It’s okay to feel them and give yourself time to heal.
    • Although you may have been hurt, you deserve self-love and self-compassion. These are two key components of your healing process. Remember, you are lovable and deserving of positive experiences.


  • Share your story with people you feel safe with and can trust. It will be important that you tell the person you’re sharing this story with that this is something vulnerable to you and if you can, give them a brief summary (e.g. “I want to tell you something and it is very hard for me to talk about because it’s a traumatic experience for me”).
    • It is normal to feel uncomfortable when discussing trauma. With a therapist, or supportive family/friend, remember that you will never be in danger. If it feels too bad, you can always stop sharing.


Unlike trying to move away from our negative and critical self-talk in Part 1 of this series “The Stories We Tell Ourselves”, it is best to seek professional support in understanding trauma stories. There are many complex layers and very difficult emotions associated with unraveling a traumatic experience. A therapist can help in trauma counselling to develop skills to manage the distressing feelings that come with telling these stories. Do not push yourself to share or “move on” – that can be equated to going to the gym and exercising a sore muscle, which usually ends up in further injury and pain. When you are ready to process the past, please reach out.


These trauma narratives, or stories we tell ourselves, are used to help survivors of trauma make sense of their experiences, while also acting as a form of exposure to painful memories.

Without treatment, the memories of a trauma can feel like sorting through a pile of dirty laundry—an unbearable wash of images, sounds, and emotions. In therapy, sharing and expanding upon a trauma narrative allows you to organize your memories, making them more manageable, and diminishing the painful emotions you carry.


To learn more about how we can support you in understanding and developing your story with counselling, contact Vivian Zhang at

Understanding and Reducing Anger and Resentment

Many people seem to be carrying their anger and resentment wherever they go. Carrying these heavy, negative emotions weigh you down and demand considerable attention and energy. At times, this negative feeling can impact more than just ‘you’ – it can also impact your actions toward your career, your family, your friends, and/ or your romantic relationship.

Is it Wrong to Feel Angry?

The answer is no. Anger is a normal, natural emotion. In many situations, it’s a healthy and appropriate emotional reaction. Anger is an emotional response to a real or imagined “wrong” or injustice, but sometimes people get angry simply because things took a different course than they feel they should have. Anger can be destructive, as we can experience it as a push against present-moment reality. In a sense, we experience thoughts representing a refusal to accept what is.

Most often, anger is a secondary emotion. It can take shape instantly, and sometimes unconsciously, in response to feelings of being hurt, fear, and/or feelings of inadequacy. When most people experience these primary emotions, they feel vulnerable, and might withdraw, experiencing their feelings internally. This way, it is easy for most to avoid expressing these more difficult emotions, as they can make us feel ‘out of control’. For many people, this revealing of vulnerability creates so much distress that the underlying emotions are automatically transformed into anger, a feeling people are more comfortable with expressing externally/ outwardly. Expressing anger outwardly is often associated with a feeling of being ‘in control’, by projecting focusing on projecting feelings onto others, rather than processing the primary emotion.


Resentment is closely related to anger. Resentments are negative feelings, basically ill will, toward someone or something as a result of a past experience. Resentment is the re-experiencing of past injustices. Some people hold resentments for many years, and choose to not let go of them. The trigger for resentment has usually left, while we still may hold onto the emotion connected to it. It is important to note that the stronger the resentment is, the more time you spend thinking about it, caught up in the anger connected to it.

Ultimately, the person holding the resentment is the one who suffers most. If you allow yourself to become angry or resentful whenever situations do not end up how you want or expect them to, then you are effectively giving control of your feelings to others.

Here are some tips on how to address feelings of anger and resentment in more healthy and helpful ways:

1. Practice identifying and allowing yourself to feel the primary emotions underneath the anger. 

2. Be conscious and present with your anger and resentment. Notice the thoughts, push and pull of different feelings and urges, and/or physical sensations.

3. Identify how you may have contributed to the situation(s) that you are angry or resentful about. Look inward and identify an alternative perspective of the situation which makes you feel anger.

4. Try an alternative method of expressing anger and resentment. Share these feelings with supportive individuals whom you trust. Journal or write about them. Choose a physical outlet, such as going to the gym, walking/ running, going to yoga, etc.

5. Learn and practice relaxation and self-calming techniques. Examples include deep breaths, mindfulness, meditation, and/or detaching from social media.

6. Although challenging, it can be helpful to create an opposite shift in urge and action. Try treating those you feel anger and resentment toward with kindness and compassion. This shift can create a circular effect in that it can also influence their actions in a positive way toward you.

7. Do not give into acting as an avenue for others’ anger and resentment. Try not to get stuck in the toxicity of interactions filled with negative emotions. Disengage from negative, unhelpful thoughts and actions.

8. Remind yourself that you cannot change the past. Acting in anger and resentment will not change or undo what has upset you. Accepting this will enable you to be more present and less stuck in the past.

If you find that you have difficulty letting go of angry feelings, consider consulting a mental health provider to move forward with anger management counselling. Angry thoughts and feelings can be isolated, or they can be part of a mental health disorder that professionals can treat effectively with psychotherapy. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), among other therapies, can help to work toward enhancing skills for regulating emotions.

If you have any questions or would like help with working to increase your mental wellness, call our Director, Carly, at 647-961-9669, or email us at